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Obscure Celebrity

Authors (who are not super famous like Stephen King or Neil Gaiman) live in a strange world of being a kind of hidden celebrity. Unless people know what you do for a living (or even do part-time), they don't give you a second look. As soon as your profession is known, you become an interesting bug or a 'celebrity.'

When I go out with my husband to the store or to eat and someone asks me what I do for a living, I always have to brace myself for the response to "I'm a fulltime author."

The first response usually is, "Really? Are you, you know, published?" This is the kind of response you give a friend who's asked you to listen to their garage band CD. I'm used to this response because I understand it very well. The editor part of me always wants to know the answer to this question to anyone who tells me they are an author.

When I say, "Yes" and qualify it with something like "I have a page on Amazon" or "I have a page on DriveThruRPG" (depending on who I'm talking with), the response almost always boils down into two categories: Interesting Bug or Celebrity.

Celebrity: This response is awe and an immediate need to know what I've written and if I would talk to a friend/spouse/sibling/child about being a professional author. You know, to give them an inside tip on how to get published in the business. Sometimes it includes a request to meet my agent. But as I don't have an agent, I mention this and they become confused.

Interesting Bug: This response starts with "I've always wanted to write…" and continues with a barrage of questions on what I did to get published (ass in chair and fingers on keyboard for a start). It usually ends with a request to read something they've written or a question asking "really, how hard is it to get published?" There's the intimation that it can't be "that" hard. My answer usually is something along the lines that, yes, it is very hard to get published but it can be done.

I've thought about not answering the "what do you do" question but really, I am proud of what I've done with my career. I get paid to write. I enjoy what I do. Honestly, I get a thrill when people tell me they've read my stuff and like it. Sometimes, I really enjoy the look of awe that I get. I admit that. It's kind of cool to be a celebrity for a very short time before going back to my life of obscurity.

I suppose it's one of the reasons I really like going to conventions. There are those professionals there that you can hang out with who understand intimately what it is like to be an author. Then there are those people who hero-worship and look up to authors as a goal to become one someday. At a convention, all authors are celebrities and interesting bugs. People want to know what we did and what they can to become like us.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 5th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
Excellent post.

More often than not I get the "interesting bug" reaction from non-writers.
Nov. 5th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
In the future

I sincerely hope you get a new response.

"I think I've read some of your stuff. I really liked it."

This would be my response, except, I already know you.
Nov. 5th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
Re: In the future
From your lips to the universe's ears.
Nov. 5th, 2009 09:28 pm (UTC)
Great post.

When I say I'm a writer, people laugh then say "Seriously, what do you do?" :(
Nov. 5th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
Nice post.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 5th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
You have described exactly why I decided to get a physics degree rather than pursue a career in any of various arts - for which I am otherwise much more suited. I don't think people realize what guts it takes to be hung out on the clothesline of one's own talent and marketing capacity.

It's also the current conversation at my house, now that I have a high tech job (instead of teaching or painting or writing or sculpting for a living.) We're slowly deciding if/when my husband should dust off his design degree and get out of high-tech, and back into fine knifemaking and other design/creation work. The cringe factor of other people's reaction may be a big part of the decision, unfortunately.

My defensive strategy to combat the "RU publisht? Rilly?" is to mention the company who published my novel when I tell them about the novel.
Nov. 6th, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)
And we can all commiserate at our lack of funds - unless you hang out with the Guest of Honor.

I can now dovetail that discussion into my money-making job of writing term papers and personal statements. That usually gives me a little notoriaty and leaves the whole "You published? Anything I can see? Is it any good?" discussion in the dust.
Nov. 6th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
When people find out I'm a published writer and they tell me they'd like to write but don't have the time, I have a great response. Works every time.

Do you watch TV every night?
Give up 30 minutes of TV a night and you'll have enough time to write.

This is usually followed by the other person changing the subject or a look of shock and oops.
Nov. 14th, 2009 12:12 am (UTC)
I often get the 'Interesting Bug' response.

It's usually; "I've always wanted to write…", but sometimes; "really, how hard is it to get published?"

Or, "I have a great idea for a novel, here it is, you should write it."

Or, "I could write a book, I just don't have the time."

The last one really bugs me. I work full time, I go to uni part time, I have a small social life and yet, I still have time to write and edit. I can't *not* write. So, when someone tells me they have every skill and desire, but just no time, I don't tend to take it too seriously ;)

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )